Saturday, August 22, 2009

"The Prophecy" (1995)

You like horror? You’ll love “The Prophecy”

Standard-Examiner staff

Once in a while, a little horror movie comes along that reminds you of the genre’s possibilities to entertain. It happened a few years ago with “Tremors,” and a few years before that with “They Live.”

Now comes “The Prophecy,” a nifty, scary little shocker that despite being drenched in religious themes remains pleasantly free of dogma. It offers tons of fun for those drawn toward horror that makes you both think and laugh out loud.

The ever-laconic, creepy Christopher Walken stars here as the archangel Gabriel, who’s descended to Earth on a mission that sounds very bad for all of humanity. Apparently, there was a second war waged in heaven -- after the first one, which resulted in Lucifer being banished with his bunch to hell -- that continues unresolved to this day. Now, angels on both sides are warring on the streets of America, vying for a particularly nasty soul which, if it falls into the hands of Gabriel, could turn the tide his way.

Now, since this would not be a good thing, one particularly kind and wise angel, Simon (Eric Stoltz), has figured a way to fake-out Gabriel. But the latter angel is devious, and closing in.

Enter a New York City cop, Thomas Dagget (Elias Koteas), who once studied for the priesthood but left on the very day he was to be made a priest. Dagget is onto this nasty business between the angels, having found a dead one and his Bible -- a 2nd-century text that includes a hitherto unknown chapter by the apostle John referring to this “second war.”

So Dagget follows Simon and Gabriel to the deserts of Arizona in a quest to 1) reaffirm his own faith, 2) protect any humans who might get in their way, and 3) help tip the balance in favor of the good angels and against Gabriel’s bloodthirsty bunch.

“The Prophecy” is deliriously outlandish, but it accomplishes the neat trick of being absolutely unsettling at the same time. Very much like the big-budget shocker “The Omen,” there’s just enough sensible-sounding Christian philosophy in “The Prophecy” to help an audience suspend its disbelief for 90 minutes and have a great time playing along.

The surprisingly smart script and even direction of first-timer Gregory Widen -- who previously wrote the scripts for “The Highlander” and “Backdraft” -- are a real plus, but his ability to cast such fine talent in front of the camera makes a huge difference, too. Walken finds both the humor and the horror in the piece, as does Stoltz. And Koteas seems just right as the spiritually hungry cop out to redeem his guilt-ridden soul.

“The Prophecy” is full of surprises, both little and gargantuan, that add up to a swell time. This kind of horror film doesn’t come along too often; see it before it’s gone.

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